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Starbucks Shows it Takes Discrimination Seriously

Starbucks Coffee LogoBy now, you have no doubt seen the news that two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks  Thursday. The men were waiting for a friend when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t yet purchased anything, a request that appears to run counter to the company’s policy. The incident sparked outrage and protest amid accusations that race was at the heart of the incident – had the two men been white, for example, it is almost certain the police would not have been called.

Give Starbucks’ senior management and crisis communications teams credit for neutralizing a delicate situation. The company recognized immediately that it had a highly charged and potentially combustible issue on its hands, and its reaction has been impressive. Among its responses:

  • Starbucks immediately acknowledged the issue on social media and promised to look into the issue.
  • Once Starbucks quickly determined it was in the wrong, CEO Kevin Johnson personally apologized to the men. Johnson also apologized publicly in written and video statements that were posted to the company’s social media platforms.
  • Johnson traveled to Philadelphia and spent several days listening face-to-face to members of the community.
  • Starbucks reassigned the store employee who called the police.
  • The company announced that it will close all 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education training for nearly 175,000 employees. Additionally, Starbucks shared that the curriculum for that training will be created in collaboration with some of the leading experts on addressing racial bias.

Bottom Line: Starbucks followed the PR crisis playbook closely, and it has been incredibly effective at neutralizing this crisis. It didn’t just react, it leaned toward overreacting. Protesters in Philadelphia (and nationally) have been trying to leverage this situation into something bigger, but Starbucks has been a step ahead of them from the beginning. Additionally, Starbucks has signaled to its socially conscious customer base that it shares their inherent values and is more than willing to be a leader in the fight for principles such as racial equality and respect for all individuals.

Jeremy Story is a Vice President at GroundFloor Media, where he co-leads the firm’s Crisis, Reputation and Issues Management practice. He has more than 20 years of experience helping companies ranging from startups to the Fortune 100 prepare for, manage and recover from crisis issues.

 

Get Grounded Spotlight: Denver Children’s Advocacy Center

At GroundFloor Media, we love giving back to the community however we can. That’s part of the reason why we started the Get Grounded Foundation in 2015 to help fund new, innovative and entrepreneurial programs or projects within existing, qualified nonprofits that directly support the healthy development of at-risk youth in the Denver Metro area in the areas of child abuse and neglect, youth behavioral health or childhood hunger relief.

We started the Get Grounded Spotlight video series to highlight a few of the past recipients of our Get Grounded grant. The latest episode centers on Denver Children’s Advocacy Center. DCAC serves the city and county of Denver in helping children and families recover from traumatic experiences. Get Grounded provided funding to help support the organization’s yoga therapy program. Watch the video above to learn more.

Once you’re done, check out the first episode, which featured another past grant recipient, PCs For People. If you are interested in receiving a Get Grounded Grant, the submission deadline for Spring 2018 grants is Monday April 30 at 5 p.m. MDT.

Pairing Social Media with Action Ends Slacktivism

Photo of Social Media Icons on a Mobile Device | Pairing Social Media with Action Ends Slacktivism

Slacktivism is a term coined years ago to describe support of a political or social cause that involves as little action or personal effort as possible, such as signing an online petition or sharing a tweet but little else.

Many viewers tuned in to witness a moment in history on March 24: The March for Our Lives and its 800+ sister city marches across the country. Alfonso Calderon, Sarah Chadwick, Jaclyn Corin, Emma González, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, Delaney Tarr and Ryan and Matt Deitsch have a common denominator; they survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Parkland, Florida in February. They also galvanized to change the typical social and legislative narrative that occurs after every mass shooting in America; an echo-chamber of divided voices demanding gun control legislation versus passionate protectors of the Second Amendment.

Social media to recruit a community around an issue

Activists share statistics about the amount of funding various politicians have accepted from the National Rifle Association. The conversation burns hot and angrily for a few weeks and then subsides until the next mass shooting. The current narrative is different. So how did a small group of teenage students force a sea change in the hotly debated gun control conversation? They started with social media but didn’t stop there.

In the hours that followed the shooting, Cameron Kasky posted the following to his personal Facebook: “Working on a central space that isn’t just my personal page for all of us to come together and change this. Stay alert. #NeverAgain.” His hashtag spread like wildfire, accompanied by another: #EnoughIsEnough. Kasky and his peers quickly formed Never Again MSD, a student-led organization that advocates for tighter weapon regulations to prevent violence.

Slacktivism meets its match

The Parkland activists have effectively circumvented any trace of slacktivism around their cause by powerfully pairing information shared from social media with real action. Since the tragedy at their school occurred, they have:

    • Stayed in the news cycle by offering daily interviews with press from across the nation.
      Effectively utilized Twitter less than a week after the shooting to organize a large march on the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee to meet with state lawmakers and vocalize their demands for action against gun violence. “The news forgets very quickly,” Jaclyn Corin told Vanity Fair. “We needed a critical mass event.”
    • Shared the call to action to support new legislation via a #NationalSchoolWalkout on both March 14 and plans for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
      Written handfuls of personal op-eds in major publications like the New York Times and Time Magazine.
    • Inspired triple-figure donations for their cause from celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney, Steven and Kate Capshaw Spielberg and Oprah.
    • Remained focused. Naysayers and skeptics billing David Hogg’s activism as crisis acting didn’t phase him. They amplified his following. “These people that have been attacking me on social media, they’ve been great advertisers. Ever since they started attacking me, my Twitter followers are now a quarter of a million people. People have continued to cover us in the media. They’ve done a great job of that, and for that, I honestly thank them,” Hogg told CNN.
    • Leveraged Twitter, Instagram, email lists and public records of contact information of representatives to pressure the Florida Legislature to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act on March 9.
    • Obtained a public permit for Pennsylvania Avenue and publicly organized the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24. The turnout was estimated between 1.2 and 2 million people. This makes it one of the largest protests in our country’s history.

Researchers are quick to cite the general affluence of the Parkland community and the students’ inclusion of racial minorities as two other factors in the success of their campaigns. Most agree that the true differentiator for Parkland has been the action that backs up their mobilization on social media platforms. The activist and suffragette Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the school is named, recognized slacktivism years ago. She wrote, “Don’t think it is enough to attend meetings and sit there like a lump…Speak up. Learn to talk clearly and forcefully in public.”

As my colleague Barb wrote back in February, “No matter what your views are on the 2nd amendment, it’s hard not to take notice of Generation Z, and how they’re using all the communications tools available to them to speak out, and perhaps make a difference.” As user behavior on social networks continues to evolve, it’s apparent that efforts to reach individuals and drive “action” must also innovate and evolve to achieve tangible results.

Crisis Response: Plan, Monitor and Respond

Traditional Media During a Crisis | GroundFloor Media Crisis Communications ExpertsIt’s 2018. When was the last time your company or organization updated its crisis communication plan?

The GroundFloor Media crisis team has been spending time reviewing crisis communication plans for our clients, and we are finding several areas that need updating. For instance, unlike five years ago, most crisis events these days don’t manifest only in the media, so there is a large social media component. Also, response scenarios likely need to be updated as well as key audiences to take into account the likelihood of a crisis happening on social media.

In general, the key theme of a crisis-response plan must be providing clear, honest communications to various audiences that might be impacted by the bad news. The crisis response approach is simple and straightforward, and based on three points:

  1. Don’t cover up
  2. Fix the problem
  3. Apologize and make sure it does not happen again

Here’s an outline of a crisis communications response plan:

Plan

  • Identify and prepare for potential issues
  • Communicate with the customer-service and legal teams
  • Get the facts and prepare statements

Monitor

Respond

  • Get in front of the story
  • “No comment” is a last-ditch response
  • Accurately convey your side of the story to all audiences

Find out more about elements of a crisis plan in a Denver Business Journal article I wrote. Also, let us know if your business needs help revising its crisis communication plan.

Is Traditional Advertising Dead? Not if you ask Shaq

Shaquille O’Neal in a Ring advertisementWhile traditional advertising is on the decline, now being taken over by targeted digital ads and YouTube stars, it’s certainly not dead. Just ask Shaq.

In the world of public relations, one of the primary communication vehicles to reach target audiences five to 10 years ago, the mass media, has shrunk dramatically. It’s no secret that prominent newspapers and magazines have shuttered, and those that are still publishing are a fraction of the size they used to be. News departments at TV and radio stations have downsized dramatically as well. Certainly, the decline in advertising sales, particularly classified ads for newspapers, have had a dramatic impact on the media. What’s more, how people consume news, watch or listen to music and entertainment, has also shifted. Consider a Pew Research study that showed six in 10 young adults are turning to online streaming, like Netflix and HBO go, to watch TV. What this means is that all of us are seeing advertising in a much different way than a decade ago.

That said, I was intrigued by a recent Real Sports segment that featured Shaquille O’Neal and the fortune he’s made in the nearly decade since he’s retired from the NBA as an ad pitchman.

Read more after the jump…

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

weekly-reads-header-5

weekly-reads-groundfloor-media-center-table-movedThe social world continues to run like a hamster in a ball, but we’re taking a moment to step out of the rat (hamster?) race to reflect on some of the erudite content GroundFloor Media and CenterTable have put out into the world.

We’ve (Temporarily) Moved!

If you missed our Tweet, don’t be alarmed when you stop by 1923 Market St. and don’t find us. We’re a few blocks down the street as our offices are undergoing a remodel. We’re hoping to be back at the end of the summer. Read more after the jump…

How to Speak Designer: The Basics

Speak Designer | Groundfloor Media CenterTable

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

“We’re looking for a creative solution”

“Can you work your magic on this?”

“We want something more graphic”

As a graphic designer, I often find myself in meetings with clients who have trouble articulating exactly what they want or need. Though it’s a designer’s job to translate his client’s vision, it’s sometimes impossible to decode what they’re trying to express. I usually run into this issue with clients who are unfamiliar with basic, design-related terms that could help them better articulate their goals. Even if you think you’re fairly well-versed in design lingo, it’s best to offer up visual examples to avoid confusion. I love it when a client shows me specific examples of what they like and dislike.

Here are some common terms to help you bridge the language gap between you and your creative team: Read more after the jump…

Aspect Ratios and Storytelling

A wide shot of the vastness of space. An intimate home video of a child’s first steps. A social media savvy YouTube vlogger with the latest and greatest in makeup techniques. Whatever you may be watching, there should be an essence to the visuals that feels cohesive with the content being portrayed. Certain shots feel right at home in a reality TV drama, while others perfectly capture the epic grandeur of a Hollywood blockbuster. The culprit is often staring at you right through a letterbox (rimshot): aspect ratio. Read more after the jump…

5 Truths About Crisis Communications

There are few things as frightening, potentially damaging and as misunderstood as a crisis. Here are five things about crisis communications that may be counterintuitive but are absolutely true:

  1. You probably don’t have a working crisis communications plan. In my experience, only about 25 percent of businesses have a legitimate crisis communications plan, and about half of those plans are out of date. They don’t reflect current business operations, and likely reference key personnel who have already left the company. That means that only about 12-13 percent of companies are truly prepared for a crisis.
  2. No one is following the crisis as closely as you are. Executives seek out every media article to get a sense of how a crisis is playing out publicly. Unfortunately, a side effect is that these executives often assume that customers, partners and even the general public are equally aware of what is going on. That absolutely is not the case. I helped a university handle an enormous crisis issue that played out prominently in media outlets coast-to-coast – the Today Show, The New York Times, NBC Nightly News, NPR, CNN and others. Executives thought they were in the eye of a hurricane, but research we conducted 45 days later found that only about 30 percent of state residents were aware of the issue. Demand for people’s attention is high and attention spans are short.
  3. When it comes to media, it’s just business – it’s not personal. Executives of companies going through a crisis almost always feel the media coverage is excessive and unfair, and assume that reporters have it out for them. The truth is that members of the media chase stories that they think are interesting or important. It is very rarely personal with the media. Want to get reporters to change their coverage? Find a better, more interesting angle to share with them.
  4. The crisis isn’t over when it is over. At the most basic level, there are three stages to crisis communications: preparing for a crisis, dealing with a crisis, and recovering from a crisis. Too many companies forget about the final stage – they are just happy it is resolved and fail to follow through on the critical final component. That is a mistake. As an example, Toyota and Penn State both had brutal crises in the past five or six years. But you probably don’t think of the crisis first when you think of Toyota, and that is because it has dedicated time and resources after the crisis to reposition the company in customers’ eyes.
  5. Having lawyers and PR practitioners working hand-in-hand will result in the best response to a crisis. The role of lawyers is to keep a client from being sued out of business, and the role of PR is to make sure the client doesn’t go out of business because customers abandon it. If either side doesn’t do its job, the company fails. Unfortunately, too often lawyers and PR experts do their jobs in isolation. My best experiences have been to negotiate with the lawyers ahead of time on strategy, tactics and language, and then present a unified recommendation to the CEO.

Four Phases of Crisis Communication | GroundFloor Media PR Agency

 

Jeremy Story is a Vice President at GroundFloor Media, where he co-leads the firm’s Crisis, Reputation and Issues Management practice. He has more than 20 years experience helping companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 100 prepare for, manage and recover from crisis issues.

The Answer to Your Next Brainstorm is a Better Question

One of the most important points of message training is to avoid speculation if you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s better to say, “I don’t know” than to send reporters or audiences spiraling with potential misinformation. That said, this point can be much easier to teach than to practice.Question Mark on a Chalk Board

I, like many other senior-level professionals, take pride in having answers. After all, what is my 20 years of experience worth if I don’t know the solution to my client’s or team’s problems? But sometimes I find it particularly hard to say, “I don’t know,” or to ask additional questions rather than just jump in with an answer – no matter how preliminary or unknown that answer or solution might be. As it turns out, I’m not alone…

Why Questions Are Scary

My colleague Brooke Willard recently wrote a poignant blog post about overcoming imposter syndrome. In it, she describes that sinking feeling of being an imposter in your own field when asked a question to which you don’t know the answer.

Hal Gregersen underscored this issue in a Harvard Business Journal article about better brainstorming when he noted that people with the most senior positions and greatest technical expertise can be the most challenged when it comes to asking questions rather than offering answers when faced with a problem. Why? Because they’re often afraid of looking incompetent if they don’t have the answers. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me – so I was thrilled this article also offered some suggestions about how to handle this better. Read more after the jump…